November 19, 2021
More offices and public spaces are using sound design to influence behavior and feelings. This is what it sounds like. I’m on the 20th floor of an office building on Wall Street. One of the offices inside is equipped with about a dozen speakers, some sitting on plinths, others mounted on the ceiling. Aric Marshall, of audio software company Spatial, is leading a demonstration of a new soundscape designed for the workplace. Holding his phone, he says “Just listen,” and touches the screen. I ready myself to hear the soundscape come out through the speakers, but just the opposite happens. The sound I hadn’t processed turns off, plunging the room in a cold, uncomfortable, almost metallic silence. Without me realizing it, a soundscape had been playing all along—in this case, a muted, almost imperceptible pitter-patter of rain falling on the roof of a wooden cabin—coating the concrete office with a sort of soft, sonic balm.